Yesterday I made my first coal from a yucca handdrill set. It took me six notches and six new drill point shapes to get a coal, ([modification]plus some stance/pose tweaking, downward pressure/\drill/\ breathing control!). The busted out of the notch and rolled away for about a half an inch into the tinder bundle (dryer lent) below. I didn’t know I made a coal until it glew red. I quickly and gently picked up the tinder and nestled it around the coal. I blew steadily and gradually harder at the coal and aloud air to flow into help feed the coal and tinder. Quickly without warning the tinder bundle burst into flames. I then dropped it onto the wet sawdust and stamped it out immediately, because I only wanted to prove that the tool and method worked. Check out the following pics of the set:

congrats man

Any tips any body on using mullein? Tom Brown jr likes it the most. I haven’t made it work yet and I’ve tried like 10 times-WTH… I want to keep trying, but at the same time, I don’t want to kill any time on something that doesn’t work!

i’ve used it for clearing up a cough before. the tea works okay, but smoking it—that shit will turn your entire bronchial system into a free-flowing phlegm fest.

i’ve haven’t tried it for a friction fire yet. what are you using for the hearthboard?

yeah, finger nails and twigs can scrap out the inner bark or pith of a mullein stalk to make a full or partial pipe/straw and the species has other uses to, I know, but yeah, I want to know about its handdrill fire starting benefits for now. I used mullein for my mullein hand-drill fire starter, and each time I drilled straight through without making a coal. That made me think of something, maybe if I try using a slightly harder hearth board than a mullein one, I might bust a coal while using a mullein stalk for the drill. I think a black elder berry heath board could get the job done. I hope so!

i like mullein on cottonwood root. and the mullein root is good too if it big enough.

mullein is absolutely fan frickin tastic for the hand drill. when i first started to learn this method i got real frustrated real quick. it took me a number of months of practice to get my first coal. but now i can go out and make a fire in 30 minutes without the help of any man made tools (i.e. knife).
a couple things that might help. mullein stalks stand for a long time after they die. the longer they stand the more broken down the get and the less usefull for fire startin. late fall/early winter is a real good time to gather them. but if you look hard enough you can find a suitable stalk at any time of the year. also, look for cracks in the stalk near the business end. these cracks allow heat to escape and brake the stalk apart as you spin. if the stalk is a dull grey color and peeling it is probably to old. you want a nice reddish brown color.
i use mostly cedar, basswood and sumac for my boards. but any medium soft wood will do. cedar works the best for me. i use the outer rings (the white one) and it works everytime.
also every method of primitive fire requires use of different muscles. so the muscles you use for the bow drill are different then the hand drill. so this means you have to practice each method a lot to train those specific muscle groups.
hope this helps.

This is a forgotton topic that ai must revive. Why? Because ai want to learn how to do it. Anyone have as detailed info as was in the bowdrill thread? Beginers’ info is much apreciated!


I realized last year that I can finally “Float” with the hand drill and it more or less happened by accident. “Floating” is keeping your hands in the same height on the spindle, moving them back and forth to twist the spindle, but not pushing your hands downward along the spindle for downward pressure. Instead you “float” your hand at the top and learn how to apply pressure while rotating your hands back upward… It’s hard to explain. I was just trying to keep my hands in the same spot to “warm up” the socket I was drilling, before applying the real downward pressure by doing the downward strokes. Eventually I got smoke and a coal just from floating! I didn’t even mean to! It was awesome. Now I use super short spindles and it’s great. I should get a video of it up here… Anyone else out there who accidentally learned to float? Any hot tips? :smiley:

Several years ago, I looked at a diagram someone made to explain the theory of floating. I started trying that and it felt pretty awkward… tilting hands up/down in opposite directions while spinning the drill.

That got tiring, so I started keeping the upper end of the drill in between my palms, helping to keep my hands from slipping down, without needing to use the hand tilting. That progressed into regular floating. It really is pretty effortless. Sometimes the hands slip down the spindle requiring a little more effort to walk the hands back up the spindle.

I’ve noticed it doesn’t require as much effort because less down-force is needed. It’s fun to just sit there and have a conversation with someone, or yourself, while twirling away. If it’s a tougher material, I’ll conserve energy by doing some easy floating for a while until I get some good smoke, then switch to some heavier down-force, making a few passes down the spindle to give the material a little extra motivation. I used to think that one needed calluses for hand drilling, but floating doesn’t really put the hands under enough stress to cause blisters, so it’s good that way too.